After 5 incredible heats spread across London, Bristol and Brighton, End of the Weak England had found our 5 finalists to compete to be crowned EOW England MC Challenge champion 2018 at Hootananny Brixton. But, to get there, the heat winners had to get through a lyrical man mountain who’d already held the title twice – last year’s EOW World Final bronze medallist Gee Bag going for a hat-trick of consecutive domestic wins. Alongside the prestige of being EOW England champ was the chance to compete at the EOW World Finals in Paris. Looking to build on the spectacular sold out 1000+ crowd and a week of constant festivities laid out by EOW Prague, the EOW France fam have secured an epic arena for this year’s final. ‘La Place’ is literally an arena 100% dedicated to Hip Hop culture, with facilities including 8 studios for recording, DJing, video production and more. To win this final was to win the opportunity to perform at France’s Hip Hop HQ. Adding to that, international superstar Thundercat was in attendance, as were our EOW Belgium fam, and 2018 finalist COI blessed us with an acapella of the highest order. The emcees were fully motivated, resulting in a final to rival any other we’ve had.
So, the finalists:
South-East London’s Angolan/Portuguese FRSHRZ reppin’ Broken Pen shelled down the Empire Bar in Hackney with a crazy combo of energy, precise flows and pure lyricism, manifested in his A-Z alliterated acapella that could hold it up to any other version previously done
West country don Wish had overcome the best competition his diverse hometown scene could produce with his depth of content and versatility, shelling down all the styles DJ Snuff threw at him in the DJ vs MC round like it was a UK Bass show.
Master keys player/punchline extraordinaire Huskie88 was back in the final for a second year after overpowering some truly powerful opponents in fellow 2017 finalists Emerge MC and Watusi87 of RU1 Fam at Grow, Hackney. Huski88 was seriously focused on victory, quoting Afro Samurai on social media, saying he’s ‘coming for the number 2 headband’ – if you know you know.
Taking an unorthodox route to the final, Feline was booked in to bring his ragga inspired flow to compete in Bristol, but had to pull out. He was so determined to show his skills he travelled to London for the Congregate Brixton heat, where he defeated 2017 finalist Menace Mendoza with his pure positivity and double time fused rhyme patterns.
The freestyle slam poet secured a hard-won victory in his native Brighton; a rowdy crowd, difficult mic-sound quality and then the heat being so close that it went to a tie break against Break-A-Bar champion Hughdem. Gramski had fully earned his spot in the final, and was ready with his unique brand of creativity.
The champ knows exactly what it takes to win this competition, he’s done it for the last 2 year years in a row. The question here was if he’d have the focus and drive to do it for a 3rd time…or if someone would be able to outshine him.
With the 6 fire emcees, Mas Law and Kissy K on hosting duties, Snuff and Jazz T behind the decks and a rammed Hootananny dancefloor, the completion was all set up for some madness.
Round 1 – Written
The written round was as dope as it should be for a final. Broken Pen came out spittin’ rapidfire over ‘Forgot about Dre’, wavy Wish started with the mantra ‘content over flows’ making sure he was flexing his lyricism, tight and clear. Huski opened up with a call and response about never giving up on your dreams (that he slipped up on a bit) before going into a characteristic punchline filled bar packed inside of some crazy flows. That level of energy was held up by Feline, who brought Rodney P and People’s Army classic ‘Live Up’ instrumental, with a variety of flows and chants delivering an uplifting message for people to ‘wake up’.
Gramski came next and decided to perform ‘Village of the Crazies’, the same track from his heat, a documentary style analysis of Brighton’s drug fuelled underbelly. With the improved sound quality he got his message across a lot better and a better response. Then came Gee Bag, telling the crowd ‘I’m a performer, this is my track, no instrumental’ and then laid down his verse from ‘Annihilate’, the Sam Krats track he features on with El Da Sensei. His delivery, crowd interaction and stage presence were that of a seasoned vet, and made him stand out over the other competitors. The champ had taken the first round and set the level for the rest of the final.
Round 2 – Acapella
In reverse order, Gee Bag came back on stage with a chair he’d pulled from his goody gag, and sat down ready to address the crowd. Between dope punchlines like ‘I’m an original with this know official flow, all my haters can kiss my arse under the mistletoe’, he left a few deeper jewels like, ‘now who gave you the right to crush beings, gold stolen from the world put into museums, despite what’s happened I’m down with a couple Europeans, Africa the motherland has to place that I’m fleeing’.
The crowd loved it, just like they loved what Gramski did next. In an attempt to reclaim letter combinations hijacked by racist groups, the slam poet rhymed a whole load of different acronyms for the letters EDL in a spectacular way. With time left to go, he revisited one of the best verses we’ve ever seen in EOW England history (from his 2017 heat performance) and broke down the meaning of what it is to be an MC in the same style. It was crazy!
Feline kept looking at the positivity he lives, flowing about oneness and the importance of Hip Hop as a unifying force. Huski kept with monster lines; ‘It’s thunder and lightning when I’m writing sutin’,yellow suit, white cape, bald head, those types of punches, total elimination is my writing function, [pointing a Mas Law] you ain’t giving me rap opponents you’re providing lunches’ (if you know about One Punch Man you know that’s a killer line!). He then packed in more IT and social media references than I’ve ever heard into the last few bars of his verse.
Wish came with more deep content and killer rhyme patterns about growing up in his ends and the obstacles there for youts dealing with that now. Broken Pen decided to redo his A to Z acapella from his heat. It’s a powerful set of bars, but unfortunately it didn’t make the same impact, partially because a lot of us had heard it before and because with the stricter time limit he didn’t get through it all. It would have been dope to see him try a different verse; I know he’s got some more fire in those rhyme books and memory banks.
Round 3 – Grab Bag
The Grab Bag round is very often the point where we start to see who’s taking control of the challenge, and it was definitely the case in this final. Feline, Wish and Broken Pen all help it up like heat winners should, no mistakes, no chokes, and good lines. Huski took it a bit further, really going in, especially when he pulled out a toilet roll followed by toilet bleach, and went into detail about bathroom difficulties and flushing. But Gee Bag and Gramski both took it to another level…
Before starting, Gee Bag pulled out a tie and blindfolded…BLINDFOLDED himself! Not only would he not know what was coming out the bag, he had to figure each item out by feeling them, all while freestyling about them…and he did it…very fucking well. The best lines where when he pulled out a saucepan and said he had a metal cap and when he pulled out a new jar of coffee and fingered the foil seal saying it was like a pussy!
Gramski treated the bag like it contained the meaning of life, and used each item to highlight a life lesson we can take from them:
- Toilet brush = clean up the shit life gives you, in your mind and in the world
- Clown bowtie = don’t take life too seriously and have fun
- Earlier, Kissy had said Gramski doesn’t look like a typical emcee so he dropped this line ‘Who are you? Who am I? I’m a fucking rapper mate, don’t believe me, I’ll wrap you up in fucking gaffer tape’ when he pulled some out the bag
- a star = religions (referencing the nativity star) are all similar.
It was incredible, one of the best Grab Bag rounds I’ve seen.
Round 4 – DJ vs MC
Round four took a similar pattern. With Jazz T on the decks, a brudda with one of the deepest and most varied music collections I’ve ever known, the emcees were in for some serious difficulty. Gee Bag kicked it off and did what he does, varied flows, a mix of written bars and genuine freestyles and dealt with everything Jazz sent him. Feline and Wish both did the same but with a bit less ease than Gee Bag, his experience was starting to really show.
Huskis round was real interesting; it was this point where he lost the 2017 final, giving up halfway though, so he saw this as a rematch with Jazz. Huski let Jazz know it, saying he want’s his hardest tracks, and Jazz gave them! Mixes of time signatures, jazzy loops and no traditional Hip Hop beats made it hard as fuck, but Huski got through the round and held it up.
Gramski did really well, his best lines came when he spotted the second mic, and started spitting in twos ‘look at it mates it’s double, double; I’m I’m, in in, trouble, trouble’ – killed it. He mixed a variety of flows to match the beats, even when Jazz was scratching and kept himself right up there with the chance to win.
Broken Pen’s was the best though. He started spitting dope writtens over whatever Jazz sent him, and despite most people associating this round with freestyle, it showed how versatile the bruddas pen game is. Jazz wasn’t feeling it though; to find something Pen couldn’t flow over, he started to cut, mashing up the track he had on the deck, but Pen just took it in his stride, switching to freestyle and full on battled the DJ. It was a dope moment that I’m sure really put Broken Pen’s score up; he went in.
Round 5 – Cypher
4 bars 4 times; it was simple for this calibre of emcee. Broken Pen and Wish leaned on writtens a bit, Feline and Gramski spat genuine freestyles and went in but Gee Bag really shone, rapping about Paris in each of his sections, putting in some French phrases and landmarks along the way. Huski, brought that in to
o half way, with his best bar being about going to Disneyland to move to Disney princesses!
It was a dope end to a dope final. All the emcees had done themselves proud, but for me at this point, it was between Gee Bag and Gramski for the title.
Live Performances – Shunaji and Lady Sanity
While the judges deliberated and added up the totals, the Brixton crowd was blessed by performances from 2 lyrical lionesses Shunaji and Lady Sanity. Shunaji stepped u first, bringing an ill combination of
soulful sung vocals and introspective, observant lyricism, all performed over beats that she triggers, edits a builds as she performs. After all the hype and testosterone of the all-male EOW Final, the crowd really responded to her energy and intimate stage presence, fully engaging in and resonating with her vibe. It was a dope performance from a talented artist.
Lady Sanity managed to find a way to fuse both styles into her performance. The Birmingham emcee put down some exceptional rhyme patterns, various topics and straight bars over jazzy, soulful sounds provided by her 4-piece band. The tempos were mixed up between Boom Bap and 140 Grime style, and Lady Sanity relished each beat, going in over everything and making a huge impact on the crowd.
This reached its maximum with the final track, a really unique version of Rage Against the Machines ‘Killing in the Name Of’, with Sanity spitting her own bars. The crowd went crazy, to the point it got played twice, and headline act had shown why her reputation is growing round England and beyond.
Like every challenge we’ve had this season, this final was close. Talking to people around the venue, it seemed that like me, Gee Bag and Gramski were most people’s favourites, and it did come down to these two master freestylers. Huski88 was pronounced 3rd, repeating what he’d managed to in the previous final, which is no small feat.
When the final decision was announced, the judges had decided that Gramski was in 2ndplace, meaning that Gee Bag had successfully defended his title for the 2ndtime and become the 3x EOW England champion. He’d killed the written, grab bag and cypher round, as well as being consistently good in the other 2, and while Gramski had also killed his grab bag and acapella, as well as being consistent, the judges felt Gee Bag had done enough to take the win. It might had been different if Gramski hadn’t repeated his written from his heat, or some of his acapella from 2017…but we’ll never know that; our 2018 EOW England Champion, deservedly so, for a 3rdconsecutive time is Gee Bag, who’ll be going to Paris on October 27thand look to take the world title. He moved from 5thto 3rdspot last time…could he jump 2 place again?
Stay locked to IAHH to find out, or even better COME TO PARIS!! Presale tickets are only €8 and you get a limited edition EOW World Final T-shirt, as well the chance to see the best freestylers in the world, from USA, England, Quebec, Czech Republic, Holland, Uganda, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Togo and for the first time China. It’s going to be WILD!!!
for more info head to: https://www.facebook.com/events/628606280819921/
All photography by Nadia Otshudi (@nadiaotshudi)